Robots and future jobs

There are many opinions about the dangers of Artificial Intelligence and automation which raise a lot of fear about technologies can take over human’s jobs and control the world. Many economists predict that the advances in robotics will lead to a new era of impersonal society and jobless future.

However, there is a different view based on the study by Professor Guy Michaels, from the London School of Economics He collected data from 17 different countries, looking at the implementation of industrial robotics over the past 14 years (From 1993 to 2017). The results show that job opportunities and wages were increasing for all workers, and the Gross National Product (GNP) of these countries increased by 0.37 percent while labor productivity increased by 0.36 percent. Out of the 17 countries studied, Germany, Italy, and Denmark saw the greatest increases.

Image: Internet

Of course, robots can do better than humans in manual labor works. They do not get tired, they do not gossip or demand wage increases, and they can do a lot of heavy lifting without getting an injury. With more robots, companies can produce more products, which in turn leads to increased profits. However, robots need to be built, and the design and develop robots require a lot of workers, especially skilled technical people, and these people often make a lot of money. According to the U.S. Labor Statistics (2017), Robotics engineers, who design robots, can make between $120,000 to $180,000 per year. Workers in the factory that make robots can earn between $65,000 to $95,000 per year and they do not even need a college education (Most attend vocational school – Data from Germany.)

History has shown us that whenever new technology was created, disruption happened, many people were panic and fear of new thing. Over time, most people accepted and learned to live with it and the results were often better than expected. The creation of automobile technology is an example. People who operated horse carriage were panic and afraid that they could lose their job. The result was different as more automobile factories were established, workers who worked in assembly lines were making much more than their horse carriage job. There was one issue: As horse carriage operator, they do not need any education but to work in automobile assembly factory, workers must go back to school to learn how to read and write so they can operate machines accordingly.

In this technology-driven world, to survive, everybody must go to school to learn new skills. Manual jobs will disappear soon as robots will take over, that is a fact. Other jobs will also be gone too but as long as people can adjust, and learn new skills, they should not be afraid of changes. If you are high school students, my recommendation is to learn to program because no matter what job that you do in the future, you need to know how to code. It is the new skills that all future jobs will require. If you are going to college, you may want to select your fields of study in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) because most future jobs will be in these fields. If you are parents of young children, you may want to spend time with them to encourage them to read more books as reading is the fundamental of the knowledge society. You should have a lot of books at home on various topics and let your young children select whatever they like to read. (My tip: When my children were young, I bought a lot of science and computer books at home, somehow my children all grow up to be computer scientists.)

There are many theories about the future as some people speculate about the economic impact of robots, and it is possible that robots could displace all human jobs, not the lower-skilled jobs but also higher levels jobs. Whether this view is correct or not nobody knows. But as long as we are learning and adjusting to whatever changes that come, we are always a few steps ahead. Personally, as someone who works closely with advanced technologies, I do not think robots can ever get smarter than human.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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